Grateful for the heroism of health care-givers, first responders, ambulance workers and police during the COVID-19 crisis, many people have found themselves wanting to give back.
At the same time, those suddenly rendered food insecure by the collapsed economy need help.
The result has been an outpouring of generosity from individuals and organizations across the River Towns.
When Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow set up a Meal Train Plus account in March, as a means of channeling food to front-line workers, they quickly found the slots – providing 30 meals, four times a day – filled up by donors.
“We never advertised; all the response was word of mouth,” said Pam Lipperman, Director of Volunteers at Phelps. “But the staff were super-appreciative of the generosity. They were putting in long, hard hours, doing heartbreaking work, and the emotional support of people’s gifts was priceless.”
Subscribers to Meal Train could pick their preferred time slot and restaurant, knowing not only that the food they were paying for would give the medical staff one less thing to worry about, but also that their cash would be supporting local businesses hit hard by the shutdown.
Caterers up and down the Hudson were tasked with delivering food – River City Grill in Irvington, Eatarry in Tarrytown, J.P Doyle’s in Sleepy Hollow, Briar Bagels in Briarcliff, The Tasty Table in Ossining, and dozens more. “It was a wonderful way to support the spirit of the hospital,” added Lipperman.
Meanwhile in Peekskill, Chapman “Chappy” Manzer of Manzer’s Landscape Designs and Development, Inc., Jason Chiaramonte of Nardone’s Funeral Home, and Luis Segarra of The Crescent Companies established a fundraiser to pay for meals to go to NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital and Peekskill/Cortlandt/Buchanan Police and Fire Departments, nursing homes, NY State Police, Anthony Wayne COVID Test Site, Hudson River Health Care, Peekskill Stop and Shop Employees, and EMS and DPW workers.
With a goal of raising $20,000, they had reached nearly $17,000 at thIs writing. In addition, on Mother’s Day, Manzer, along with Segarra and a group of volunteers, delivered 450 hanging plants to staff at NYP Hudson Valley Hospital.
These were not Manzer’s first charitable interventions. A long-time member of Peekskill Rotary Club, Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce and HOPE for Youth Foundation, Manzer was already donating his company’s time and labor to help with community landscaping projects when he saw local businesses start to close and lay off workers because of the coronavirus. That’s when he decided he had to do something.
EASING THE BURDEN
“These people have always been there for our community and I thought they deserved a better shot than what they’re getting,” he said. “I figured that providing groceries and meals would make what they’re going through a little easier.”
So began his twice weekly give-aways of hot meals on Fridays, aided by Peekskill Rotary and HOPE for Youth Foundation, and packaged groceries — with the help of Feeding Westchester and the City of Peeksill — to lines of waiting people.
The generosity of individuals like Manzer and organizations like Gullotta House – which is also providing free community meals in Ossining –– has led to a new initiative called the Virtuous Collective, formed by the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce, and inspired by Ossining Innovates! and the Brieant Youth Alliance.
Virtuous Collective’s mission is “to create a bridge between the local businesses that provide relief for the Greater Ossining Community and the not-for-profits,” explained Dr. Gayle Marchica, President of the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce.
“The plan is to widen the pool of involvement, inviting more businesses, philanthropies, and residents to become part of the solution of surviving the current crisis and building a foundation for the future. For the moment our focus will be on meals, but looking beyond the pandemic, we will be doing other things, like helping with school supplies – whatever the community needs.”
TO DONATE …
- MealTrain.com (must be invited to donate by participating group)
- Meals for Peekskill & Cortlandt Essential Workers (Chappy Manzer) – search “Peekskill” at GoFundMe.com
Elsbeth Lindner is editor of River Journal.